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Sviatoslav Richter

Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was a Soviet pianist of Russian-German origin, who is generally regarded as one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.
He is known for the "depth of his interpretations, his virtuoso technique, and his vast repertoire."

In 1981 Richter initiated the international musical festival December nights, held in the Pushkin Museum, which after his death in 1997 was renamed December Nights of Sviatoslav Richter. In 1986, Richter embarked on a six-month tour of Siberia with his beloved Yamaha piano, giving perhaps 150 recitals, at times performing in small towns that did not even have a concert hall. It is said that after one such concert, the members of the audience, who had never before heard classical music performed, gathered in the middle of the hall and started swaying from side to side to celebrate the performer. It is said that in his last years Richter contemplated giving concerts free of charge (although he never actually did so).

An anecdote illustrates Richter's approach to performance in the last decade of his life. After reading a biography of Charlemagne (he was an avid reader), Richter had his secretary send a telegram to the director of the theater in Aachen, Charlemagne's favoured residence city and his burial place, stating "The Maestro has read a biography of Charlemagne and would like to play at Aquisgrana (Aachen)". The performance took place shortly thereafter.

As late as 1995, Richter continued to perform some of the most demanding pieces in the pianistic repertoire, including Ravel's Miroirs cycle, Prokofiev's Second Sonata and Chopin's études and Ballade No. 4.

Richter's last recorded orchestral performance was of three Mozart concerti in 1994 with the Japan Shinsei Symphony Orchestra conducted by his old friend Rudolf Barshai.

Richter's last recital was a private gathering in Lübeck, Germany, on March 30, 1995. The program consisted of two Haydn sonatas and Reger's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Beethoven, a piece for two pianos, which Richter performed with pianist Andreas Lucewicz.

Richter died at Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow from a heart attack on August 1, 1997, aged 82. He had been suffering from depression due to an inability to perform caused by changes in his hearing that altered his perception of pitch. At the time of his death, he was rehearsing Schubert's Fünf Klavierstücke, D. 459.



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